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An Open Letter to the Roommates Watching my Cats this Weekend

My dear three roommates,

As I prepare for my weekend trip to visit friends in New York City (more than 48 hours that I will be away from our home), I feel one emotion plaguing me: anxiety. And this anxiety exists because I will be leaving you, my dear roommates, with the most important responsibility: making sure that my cats do not die.

For the nine months that I have had Chuck and Barry, I have been the sole caretaker for them. I’m not complaining about this, but just laying it out as fact: I have been the one to feed them wet and dry food every day, give them water, clean their litter box daily, take them to the vet, bring Barry to the emergency room when he was injured, buy them toys and food and scratching posts and collars and litter, brush them, pet them. That is a responsibility that I have taken on for myself, because the cats are mine and will continue to be mine when we move out.

HOWEVER, since I have been the one to do 99.9% of the caretaking (besides for the pets that you all administer and the one or two times you fed the cats when I asked you to), it leaves me a little anxious at your ability to care for the cats. Look, I know you guys are busy with jobs, schoolwork, relationships and friends, so maybe it’ll be easy to walk by an empty water bowl and not let it register that it needs to be filled by you; it will be easy to forget to give the cats their daily wet food, because “that’s Sarah’s job, not mine”; maybe it will be easy to forget that the litter boxes are overflowing, that they need to be done every day.

What I’m saying is: taking care of the cats has always been my job and my responsibility, not yours. You don’t have to think about it every day and remember to do it. So here I am, a little bit worried that you will inevitably forget. Because I love Chuckie and Barry so much, their happiness and health is my number one priority, and I’m afraid to leave it to people who have never taken care of them before.

I know I’m overreacting and that, between the three of you at least, someone will remember to feed and water the cats. However, please excuse me as I incessantly text our group chat to make sure that somebody has, indeed, remembered to do the litter boxes; please excuse me as I ask for pictures and to FaceTime; please excuse me as I ask if they miss me or are getting enough attention.

And please, whatever you do, just feed my cats. They’re too cute to let wither away.

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Love,

Sarah

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Christmas Break at Grandma’s

The best part about college is the month-long winter breaks where students can travel back home and spend the holidays in peace and relaxation with their family.

Or, in my case, I loaded Chuck and Barry up into their carrier and listened to them cry and meow nonstop for two hours on the drive from the City of Brotherly Love to my mom’s house up in the mountains. Once there, I reacquainted them with their grandmother (my mother), and introduced them to their great-grandmother (my grandmother, also known as Baba) and to their long-lost furry siblings!

The Siblings

IMG_1040.jpgNaruto and May May are the king and queen of my mom’s house. Naruto is about ten years old and we adopted him from the shelter when he was a kitten. He was a small little thing at the time: snow white, bright blue eyes, and a pleading meow to come home with us that just wouldn’t stop! Many years later, Naruto is a huge, fat cat. My mom always claims that she’s putting him on a diet, but he honestly looks bigger every time I come home for a break. It doesn’t help that Baba sneaks him treats anyway.

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May is probably around fifteen. I got her when I was just a little girl, unsure what I was doing with cats. I used to lock her in the bathroom with me and dress her up in my dolls’ clothes. It’s safe to say that for a few years afterwards, she did not like people, especially me. Now she has warmed up a little bit, and she’s a cuddly little love bug when she wants to be.

I was nervous to introduce Chuck and Barry to Naruto and May. Chuck and Barry, at only six months, are rambunctious and playful. Naruto and May (not to be rude, of course) are well past their prime, and they prefer laying on the back of the chair over full contact wrestling.

IMG_1139.jpgThe Introduction

When Chuck, Barry, and I finally made it to my mom’s house, I brought the cat carrier into the living room and opened the door. Immediately, every cat in the house was on alert. Ears back, crouched low to the ground. Naruto watched from a distance and May ran from the room. Chuck and Barry sat in the carrier for a while, terrified. Finally, Chuckie started venturing out and exploring the house while an irritated Naruto watched on. Barry didn’t leave the cage for over an hour.

The cats all casted a lot of wary glances at each other. Occasionally, there was some hissing or running, but nobody attempted to kill each other!

Chuck and Barry Fall in Love

I don’t think that Chuck and Barry have ever been around another female cat, besides their mother and any female cats in the litter they were born with.

I’ve heard of female cats in heat announcing that they are ready to mate, but I had no idea that male cats make the same noises! So when Chuck and Barry started howling, my mom and I were confused — what are these strange noises coming from these two male cats? Why are they doing that?

Well, apparently, when a male cat is around a female cat, usually one in heat, they start howling to announce their presence to the frisky females. May is spayed, but Chuck and Barry aren’t (yet!), so that set off their little kitty hormones and they were going crazy! Therefore, they made noises that sound like a mix between speaking, howling, and meowing (just like the cat in this video).

Fortunately for May, Chuck and Barry were still too shy and scared of her to try and do anything besides gaze across the room. Thankfully, they never made those sounds before, and as soon as we got home to Philadelphia, they stopped.

Brotherly Love

My mom was really hoping that Naruto would warm up to Barry and Chuck and play with them. She said that Naruto needed somebody to play with, and also, that he could stand to burn a few calories.

Unfortunately, it was not to be a vacation full of bonding.

The good news is that Naruto finally stopped hissing and swatting at them whenever they came around! It was progress. Maybe by Easter break they’ll start playing together.

Grandma’s Love

My mom adored Chuck and Barry. Of course, she is the cat lady that raised me!

img_1727IMG_1710.jpgAnd of course, Grandma has to spoil her grandchildren. They got wet food for breakfast every day, a lot of treats, lots of playing time, and more cuddle than they could deal with! For Christmas, they got a lot of toys and a big IMG_1719.jpgfun tent to play in. Of course, they found their own toys to play with (or should I say in), too!

IMG_1863.jpgMy mom also gave Barry and Chuck some nicknames. She nicknamed Barry “Einstein” because of how quickly he learned how to play fetch with a tin foil ball (he really loved fetch). He even helped Grandma do laundry!

My mom nicknamed Chuck “Marilyn” after Marilyn Monroe. Although beautiful and dainty, Chuckie does not possess the same quick wit as Barry and did not pick-up any new tricks.

Christmas break at Grandma’s was a great time for Chuck and Barry! They got lots of love, affection, and treats — I know they’re already missing their grandma and kitty siblings!

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How do I Communicate with my Cats?

I recently stumbled upon this post from the Way of Cats Blog, and it got me thinking about the connections that I have with my cats. I love this post because it gives me more insight into the way that my cats are communicating with me.

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I have very verbal kittens, and I am gradually learning what each of their meows mean. I can almost even tell the two of them apart. I know when Chuck is waking me up in the middle of the night to get pet, or when Barry is just absolutely starving for attention. I know Chuck’s little meow of approval when he’s getting petted right.

But there’s so many other meows that I have yet to understand! Why are they in the kitchen, alone, meowing? Why is Chuck crying so loudly when I am in the shower?

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Pamela Merritt highlights body language and actions as a very huge part of the way that cats communicate. For me, body language and actions are even harder for me to figure out. I still don’t know what my cats want when they jump on the table. If there’s food on there, I get that. If there’s a plastic bag, I understand that they’re on the table to play with it. But sometimes there’s nothing up there. Are they up there because they want to be climb up high? Do they want my attention, thus misbehaving so that I have to pay attention to them? Have they simply just not learned yet that I don’t want them up there? Is it just a coincidence?

I want to be a great cat mom, but sometimes it’s so hard! When your children can’t actually communicate with you, it’s up to you to figure things out. When your children are another species, that makes it even more difficult.

I’m definitely going to be using this article to help improve my communication with my cats. As a loving, doting, overbearing mother, I want to give them everything they could ever want.

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Six Things Chuck and Barry Ate that they Shouldn’t Have (And Two Things they Wouldn’t Eat that they Should’ve)

cats-and-tuna-sandwichWhen you get a cat, you’re not expecting them to beg for food like a vulture. Cats are refined. They might like some chicken, but you have to beg for their affection by offering food, not the other way around. But that’s not what it’s like with my cats. Chuck and Barry LOVE human food — and they’ll eat just about anything and everything. Here are some of those things that they should have never put into their little bodies:

1. Frontline Plus

I had the cats literally a day before I witnessed this one. Frontline Plus is a flea and tick preventative applied to the back of the neck where the cats aren’t able to lick it. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t lick it off each other.

I watched from across the room as Chuck licked Barry’s Frontline Plus. He did NOT like it. He also threw up a few times over the next 24 hours. I kept a close eye on him, and I was prepared to rush him to the emergency vet if I needed to, but he was otherwise fine and recovered.

2. Rubbing alcohol

While at the vet, when they got tested for feline AIDs and leukemia, they tested Chuck. He came back with a wet spot on his leg that smelled like rubbing alcohol. Of course, what does he decide to do? Lick it. And just like the Frontline, he was a very unhappy and grossed out kitty. Thankfully, though, this time he did not get sick.

3. Crown Fried Chicken

I’m honestly surprised that my cats survived eating Crown Fried Chicken, since I can only assume it’s more toxic than Frontline Plus and rubbing alcohol combined. My roommates and I accidentally left out Crown Fried Chicken and went outside. When we came back, both Barry and Chuck were face down in the chicken, gnawing on it like they hadn’t eaten for days (news flash: there’s always dry food left out for them). Cats are carnivores so I’m not worried that they ate chicken, but I am worried that it was fried fast food.

4. Iced tea

Again, my little glutton Chuck was the culprit in this case. My roommate looked at the coffee table to find him sipping her iced tea out of a cup. Apparently he liked it, and he still goes back for more. I don’t let him get his paws on it, though — iced tea, with all the sugar, isn’t good for cats.

5. Dog food

Even if some of these descriptions of Chuck and Barry’s adventurous taste buds make you think they’re dogs, they’re really not. They’re cats. But that doesn’t stop them from attempting to eat my roommate’s dog Finn’s food.

6. A Jalapeno pepper

Just guess which cat did this.

Yep, it was Chuck. My roommate had cheese fries, and Chuck was all over them…until he licked the Jalapeno pepper. Cue the disappointed head shaking and the mad dash to the water bowl. He stayed away from those cheese fries after that.

7. Cereal

chuck-and-cerealI didn’t even find out about this one until my roommate posted a photo on Instagram of Chuck taking a large bite out of his cereal. Cereal is not good for cats!

If those are the things they’ve very willing to eat (against all of my wishes), what are some of the things they refuse to eat?

1. Their antibiotics

When I first got the kitties, they had diarrhea so they were prescribed antibiotics. The antibiotic was a liquid that supposedly tasted like chicken, and I had to use a syringe to squirt some into their mouth twice a day.

They HATED it. The struggle just to get their mouth’s open lasted me almost twenty minutes, but you would think would be a lot easier considering they weighed four pounds at the time and I weigh…a lot more. They still hate anybody touching their mouths and teeth from this experience.

2. Their dewormer

I got a tapeworm dewormer for them because of the previously mentioned loose stool. The dewormer was a very large pill, so I figured I would crush it up and put it into some wet food. They love wet food, so that should be easy, right?

Nope.

As you can guess, they basically refused to eat it. I solved this by repeatedly picking them up and dropping them in front of the food, so they would eat a few bites, walk away, then repeat. I felt awful forcing them to do this, but I had to, just for their sake.

I always loved cats because they’re so much less maintenance, but I’m slowly finding that’s not the case. Every day is a struggle to keep my cats off of my dinner, and I’m just hoping they stay out of the things they’re supposed to stay out of from now on.

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Six Struggles of Being a College Student Cat Mom

I brought home my two little fur babies a month ago, and they’ve been the greatest addition to my life so far. However, there are some things that Chuck and Barry do that makes my life, as a college student, exponentially harder. Here are some of those things.

1. They won’t let you do your homeworkimg_0480

Here’s a picture of Chuck pawing at my hand so I can’t do my French homework. You know the drill: kitties love to walk all over your laptop, demand your attention, play with your pencil while you’re writing, sit on your notebook. They make it difficult to get anything done.

2. They hold your things hostage 

Cats attach thechuck-on-backpackkkmselves to strange things, and prefer to sleep on top of even stranger ones. For whatever reason, Barry and Chuck love laying down on my backpack. Once they’re plopped down there, they’ll cry for attention and refuse to move.

3. They keep you up all night 

Cats are independent, but sometimes they need attention, and that just happens to be around six a.m. when the normal college student is nowhere near ready to wake up. I’m often woken up in the middle of the night to a kitty crying, and the only way to stop the crying is to pet them. A lot.

4. Being a mom takes time

Cleaning the litter box, going to the store to buy food, taking the kitties to the vet, breaking up the occasional cat fight…it all takes a lot of time, and you have to find that time somewhere.

chuck-in-bed5. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning 

College students don’t want to get out of bed in the morning to begin with, but when this is what you’re waking up to, how could you ever leave? 

6. You spend all day missing your cats

Sitting in class, all you think is “I want to go snuggle my kitties right now” and “I hope they didn’t get into the paper towels again.” It’s hard to concentrate!

Walking throubuckcherrygh the door at the end of a long day on campus is the absolute best. Oftentimes, I joke about how I’m going to drop out of college and be a full-time cat mom. I’m kidding. Kind of.

My cats are the best part of my life, but they make being a college student so hard sometimes! Tell me about your struggles with being a cat parent.